Here in the United States, incoming college students are warned of the “freshmen 15:” a term coined to describe the tendency of some students to put on weight during their first time away from home—likely due to temptation at the dining halls, late night studying and irregular hours, stress and a new schedule. The veracity of this phenomenon has been called into question and doesn’t appear to be as widespread in graduate school. However, moving to a new city and starting a new routine (especially one that involves a lot of sitting down) can draw your focus away from your health.
Today, I’m sharing with you a post by another one of our Program Assistants, Lauren Podber, MIA ’15. Lauren is a five-year dual-degree student with Columbia University’s School of General Studies, and her focus has been in International Security Policy, with a specialization in the Middle East. She wanted to share with you two of the opportunities you’ll have as a SIPA student: the opportunity to take coursework in fields you’re passionate about, and the opportunity to pursue a career in your chosen concentration. Here’s what she had to say:
Lauren is a second-year SIPA student pursuing an MIA degree with a concentration in International Security Policy. During her time at SIPA, which has overlapped with her final year at Columbia’s undergraduate School of General Studies (GS), Lauren has worked for Court Square Capital Partners, a private equity firm, as well as choreographed for Fordham University’s Dance Team. During the Summer of 2012 and of 2013, Lauren interned in the Intelligence and Cyber Operating Unit, at a defense contractor in Northern Virginia. This summer, in addition to working at Court Square and Fordham, Lauren continued studying Persian/Farsi, which she has been learning over the course of the past three years. Before coming to Columbia as an undergraduate in 2009, Lauren was a professional dancer. She graduated magna cum laude and phi beta kappa with a degree in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies from Columbia University in February 2014.
What did you do before coming to SIPA?
I worked as a professional dancer before coming to SIPA. Although I was formally trained as a classical ballet dancer at the Joffrey Ballet School and Kirov Academy of Ballet, I ended up working as a professional dancer/cheerleader for the New Jersey Devils, a hockey team, as well as several smaller teams managed by the owners of the Devils. I also worked for House of the Roses Volunteer Dance Company: a non profit organization providing free, onsite dance instruction to homeless and at-risk children in transitional shelters and community centers in NYC and the Bronx. In 2009, I came to Columbia’s undergraduate School of General Studies to pursue a degree in Middle Eastern Studies.
On the left: a group of House of the Roses dancers after a performance at “Project Dance” in Time Square, in 2010.
What attracted you to SIPA?
The professors! I heard about the program from a friend in GS, and I remember looking at the online course bulletin for ISP (International Security Policy) and deciding right then and there that I needed to apply. I was so excited to sign up for so many of the courses. In addition, continuing at Columbia, allowed me to take an extra year of Persian/Farsi with my favorite language teacher. Lastly, as someone who would have finished college at 28, it allowed me to complete a masters degree more quickly, which should hopefully be beneficial in the job search!
What kind of work do you hope to do when you graduate?
I’m most interested in the Middle East and Central Asia. Hopefully, I’ll end up working somewhere where I am focused on Iran, and get to continue learning the language. Given the ever-changing global landscape, this could be completely irrelevant five years from now, so I’m keeping an open mind!
"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."
—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs